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Majors & Degrees

Swenson named Goldwater Scholar

April 11, 2018

Vaille Swenson, a Dakota State University senior, has been chosen as a Goldwater Scholar. She is the second Goldwater Scholar in school history; the first DSU scholar was named in 2017-2018.

Swenson is one of 211 Goldwater Scholars for 2018-2019. Based on academic merit, they were selected from a field of 1,280 natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering students nominated by the campus representatives from over 2,000 colleges and universities nationwide. An additional 281 nominees were named honorable mention.

“I can think of few more deserving of this award,” said Dr. Patrick Videau, assistant professor of biology at DSU. “She has worked tirelessly in many scientific endeavors and produced results that rival the amount and quality of early to mid-stage graduate students.”

Videau also noted her drive toward scholastic achievement. “She has achieved semi-autonomy in research by designing and working on her own projects both as offshoots of my lines of inquiry and in novel areas.”

Swenson said she always loved science but didn’t think there were any viable career options in chemistry or biology besides being a doctor or a veterinarian. She started her college career as a cyber operations major, first in her home state of Colorado, and then at Dakota State as a transfer student. When taking a microbiology course early on in her DSU career, she rediscovered science and changed her major to biology for information systems, with chemistry and math minors. “I was hooked on science,” she said.

She said that because of the excellent science faculty at DSU, and individual attention possible with small class sizes, she was able to take advantage of unique and impressive research opportunities as a DSU undergraduate.

Swenson has presented her scientific research at the local, state, and international level, most notable being the 2017 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) meeting, where she presented her research on a mobile phone application to assess 96 well plates, a commonly used tool in microbiology.

Swenson and four other DSU undergraduates were invited to the 2018 Gordon Conference on the Origins of Life, exclusive conferences not normally attended by undergraduates. At this conference the students were invited to a week-long training at the Paris-Sorbonne University.

This summer, the Nederland, Colo. native will be researching viruses and cancer cell lines at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., one of five internship offers she had. As part of the Goldwater Scholarship, she will continue research projects during her final year at DSU. After graduation in spring 2019, she plans to attend graduate school.

The one- and two-year Goldwater Scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type. Honoring Senator Barry Goldwater, it was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. Since its first award in 1989 through 2018, the foundation has bestowed 8,132 scholarships worth approximately 65 million dollars.

For 2018-2019, Swenson was one of three students in the state so honored, along with a chemistry student from SD Mines and a physics/astronomy major from SDSU.